Let me be perfectly clear. I’m fully aware that UCLA‘s four-game winning streak is over an inconsistent Texas team and the less than-dominant trio of Prairie View A&M, Long Beach State and Fresno State. That said, I’m fully confident UCLA is starting to slowly resemble the team we thought they would be.
The big reason why? All three highly touted freshmen have snatched the leadership mantle and are running with it. Shabazz Muhammad‘s starting to show his brilliance with three consecutive 20-point games. Kyle Anderson‘s showing flashes of the point guard he was as he’s had seven assists in two of the last three games.
Anderson’s 20-point, 17-rebound, 7-assist game against Fresno State might be one of the best freshman performances of the season. As for Jordan Adams? All he’s done is remain consistent since he was the first freshman of the bunch to break out.
As much as I’ve criticized Ben Howland, not even he could ignore the need to save his job by unleashing his young pups. I’ll also credit him for thankfully sitting David Wear on the bench and realize the team is much faster and fluid with one Wear twin as a starter.
In all honesty, I don’t think there’s a freshman trio that can compete with Muhammad, Anderson and Adams and as they continue to improve, so goes UCLA. The Bruins are now resembling the fastbreak team many envisioned before the season and despite how bad they are defending the perimeter (allowing Fresno State to go 10-for-17 on 3-pointers wasn’t encouraging), it is a positive sign that the freshmen are starting to take control.
UCLA still has a long way to go and how they play against Missouri will be a better sign of their progress. But at least their freshmen are all fulfilling their potential at the same time. There may be better individual freshmen in the country (UNLV‘s Anthony Bennett obviously) but for one team, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better group in the country.